It provides some of the most heart-stopping scenery in the Alps, headed up by Mont Blanc and the dramatic Aiguille du Midi, and some of the most varied and demanding off-piste skiing worldwide. Yet Chamonix has always had a reputation as a disjointed resort, a place mainly for hardcore skiers.
"The classic Chamonix visitor was younger, focused on serious skiing, and the resort never offered the high-quality chalets you would find in Courchevel or Megève," says Matthew Hodder-Williams of Knight Frank. "That's changing as the resort goes upmarket."
This upgrade is instantly apparent in the attractive town centre with its shop-fronts — many new this winter — featuring edgy sportswear brands such as Oxbow, North Face and Mammut.
You can see it, too, in properties like Amazon Creek, one of three separate chalets built by an English owner in the hamlet of Les Bossons over the last five years. With cinema room, spa, and ultra-comfortable interiors, it rents successfully for up to £31,500 a week. The three chalets are for sale together for £10 million through Knight Frank (knightfrank.com).
In the centre of Chamonix, the last of five newly converted apartments in a building between the river and the railway line is £626,850 for three good bedrooms, balcony and garage.
Its excellent location for ski lifts and low annual charges of £210 make it an interesting rental investment. Villages along the valley provide less strong rentals, but are more affordable. In the pine forests of family-friendly Les Houches, Mountain Base have two-bedroom apartments for £204,800 and four-bedroom chalets from £334,400 (mountain-base.com).
"It's true that Chamonix isn't as well-connected as the flashier resorts in the Three Valleys, but what it lacks in connecting lifts it makes up for in scenery and off-piste skiing," says Roddy Aris of Winkworth. "And prices are far lower than the likes of Courchevel."
Life on the leading edge
Londoner Robin Deering, 31, (left) has lived in Chamonix for three years and works for the Chamonet.com online magazine. He and his girlfriend own a small chalet between Chamonix and Les Houches.
"It's not a purpose-built resort," he says. "But it boasts a number of different ski areas: cruise-y blue runs in Le Tour, sunny off-piste descents on Brévent-Flégère and steep, deep skiing on Grands Montets." Robin's perfect Chamonix day starts with breakfast at rustic restaurant L'Impossible before getting the best view of Mont Blanc in the Brévent ski area.
"At the end of the day, if your legs are up to it, you can dance on tables at Chambre 9 or visit chilled-out Bistrot Gourmand to snack on local hams and cheese with a great choice of wines." Other top tips include treeline skiing in family-friendly Les Houches and the Sunday roast at the Kitsch Inn.
Contacts and factfile
Knight Frank: 020 7629 8171; knightfrank.com
Winkworth: 020 7870 7181; winkworth-international.com
Mountain Base: 020 7099 5727; mountain-base.com